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Nobel in Physics Awarded for ‘Strange States’ of Matter


A screen showing pictures of the winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics during a news conference by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden October 4, 2016. From left: David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz. TT News Agency/Anders Wiklund/via REUTERS

A screen showing pictures of the winners of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics during a news conference by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden October 4, 2016. From left: David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz. TT News Agency/Anders Wiklund/via REUTERS

Three British-born scientists have won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award on Tuesday.

The academy is recognizing David J. Thouless, F. Duncan Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz for their work in topology, an advanced field of mathematics. Topology describes the properties of objects.

Thouless, aged 82, once taught at the University of Washington, but is now a professor emeritus. Haldane, 65, is a physics professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. Kosterlitz, 73, is a physics professor at Brown University in Rhode Island.

The men launched their experiments in the 1970s. The academy said their research projects brought about a new and unexpected understanding of the way solid materials behave. It said they also developed their own mathematical equations to explain the behaviors.

In a statement, the Nobel judges said, “This year's laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter."

Les membres de l'Académie royale des sciences Nils Martensson, Goran K Hansson et Thomas Hans Hansson, sont assis sous la photographie des prix Nobel David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, à Stockholm, Suède, le 4 octobre 2016.

Les membres de l'Académie royale des sciences Nils Martensson, Goran K Hansson et Thomas Hans Hansson, sont assis sous la photographie des prix Nobel David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz, à Stockholm, Suède, le 4 octobre 2016.

The judges said there is hope that topological materials will help create new generations of electronics and superconductors.

Haldane told reporters he was “very surprised and very gratified” to win the award. “A lot of tremendous new discoveries that are based on this original work are now happening.”

He added that the discoveries came by accident, which is often the case with science. “You stumble on it and you have the luck to recognize what you've found is something very interesting.”

The Associated Press spoke by telephone with Kosterlitz, who was in Finland. He said he was “a little bit dazzled” and “still trying to take it in.”

The Nobel Prize for Physics comes with a monetary prize of $930,000, which is split among the winners. The Nobel laureates will also collect a medal and diploma at an award ceremony on December 10.

Yoshinori Ohsumi, a professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology smiles in front of a celebration message board after he won the Nobel medicine prize in Yokohama, Japan, October 3, 2016 in this photo released by Kyodo.

Yoshinori Ohsumi, a professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology smiles in front of a celebration message board after he won the Nobel medicine prize in Yokohama, Japan, October 3, 2016 in this photo released by Kyodo.

The first Nobel Prize of this year – for Physiology or Medicine - was announced Monday. That award went to Japanese scientist Yushinori Ohsumi for experiments related to baker’s yeast.

Other Nobel prizes will be announced this week and next week.

Joshua Fatzick reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Additional information came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

equationn. mathematical statement that shows two amounts are equal

laureaten. person given a prize for achievement

pioneering – adj. one of the first to develop new ideas or methods

exotic – adj. very different, strange, often foreign

superconductor – n. substance capable of allowing electricity to easily flow through it

stumble – v. to come upon unexpectedly or by chance

dazzled – adj. greatly surprised, excited or impressed

baker’s yeast – n. the common name given to organisms used to help bread or baking products rise when heated

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